Roman single-handedly rewrites the Constitution

The ability of the citizenry to participate in national decision-making lies at the heart of the democratic system of government. That system’s other name is, after all, representative government.

The thirteen colonies of the British Crown rebelled against London towards the end of the 18th century. The basis of their action was the colonies’ not being represented in the British Parliament. As everyone knows, the rebellion was successful and gave birth to the United States of America.

Most of the inhabitants of the city of Pasig, which was the capital of Rizal province until the Marcos martial-law administration made it a component of what came to be known as Metro Manila, find themselves in the same situation today that the thirteen colonies did two and a half centuries ago. The colonies fought King George IV; Pasig’s citizens are fighting their Representative, third-termer Roman Romulo.

The Americans’ complaint against their colonial masters was very basic. It was encapsulated in their battlecry “No taxation without representation.” There can be nothing more basic than being forced to contribute to the financing of a government without having a say in how the government uses the taxes it collects from the citizenry.

The Pasiguenos’ beef is even more basic. It is premised on one of the provisions of a written and democratically approved Constitution.

The present Constitution states that every province or city with a population of 250,000 is entitled to a seat in Congress. That mandate is clear, straightforward and unqualified. There are no ifs and buts, and there are no exceptions. When the population of a province or city reaches 250,000, it becomes entitled to a Congressional seat.

But Rep. Roman Romulo has decided to singlehandedly re-write the above-cited provision of the 1987 Constitution. Whereas in 2007 he filed a bill calling for more than one Congressional seat for Pasig City--in the bill’s explanatory note he said that “(having more than one Pasig district) would make life easier... two or three districts will make (Pasig) more manageable” --in 2015 Rep. Romulo is opposing the 3-District Movement’s redistricting petition on the basis of an argument that should have been put forward by the director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority, not the Representative of the Lone District of Pasig City. The argument revolves around the relation, as perceived by Romulo, between in-migration and a positive change in the fiscal capability of an LGU.

This is what Rep. Romulo has said: “Every time the House of Representatives increases its membership, large chunks of funding are taken from the national government which could otherwise be used to improve the economic situation, especially in the provinces.” For good measure he added: “(B)ecause a huge share of government funds is concentrated in Metro Manila, people migrate to the capital mainly because of better prospects of employment. What we need to do actively is for national funds to be poured into the provinces. We should start developing other centers of development.”

In an additional statement evocative of Vice President Jejomar Binay, Rep. Romulo averred that the 3-District Movement was “designed for political convenience rather than something that will be of help.” Is the Congressman suggesting that 520,000 Pasignueños should remain deprived of Congressional representation--the Philippine statistics authority projects a Pasig population of around 770,000 this year--because of some Pasig citizens’ political aspirations? Romulo would ignore a Constitutional mandate on account of his fear of a challenge to his lone-Congressman power and prestige? Quite a number of provinces and cities have been granted additional Congressional seats by Congress in recent years in recognition of their population increases--Cavite, now with seven districts, is the most prominent example of this--but the political leaders of those provinces and cities were never heard to oppose the creation of additional Congressional districts on the ground of migration from the provinces to this country’s major cities.

Rep. Romulo is the chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Higher Education. Surely, a highly educated man should ever be mindful of respect for the Constitution and of the demands of selfless public service.

My unsolicited advice to Roman Romulo is for him to talk to his father, former Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto G. Romulo, a worthy member of the Romulo family. I am certain that my friend Secretary Bert will counsel his son to stop playing trapo politics, respect the Constitution and give all the citizens of Pasig City the representation in Congress that is their right.


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